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CHE > Media and Publications > Accreditation and National Reviews > HEQC Institutional Audits Manual 2007
January, 2007


  1. Policy and legislation

    The Higher Education Act of 1997 (Act No. 101 of 1997) assigns responsibility for quality assurance in Higher Education in South Africa to the Council on Higher Education (CHE). The CHE's responsibilities are to:

    • advise the Minister at his/her request or proactively on all matters related to higher education
    • assume executive responsibility for quality assurance within higher education and training
    • monitor and evaluate the achievement of policy goals and objectives for higher education
    • contribute to the development of higher education through publications and conferences
    • report to parliament on higher education
    • consult with stakeholders on higher education matters.

    The CHE discharges its quality assurance (QA) responsibility through the Higher Education Quality Committee (HEQC), a permanent committee of the CHE. The mandate of the HEQC is to:

    • promote quality assurance in higher education
    • audit the quality assurance mechanisms of institutions of higher education
    • accredit programmes of higher education.

    The Board of the HEQC has added capacity development to the above functions as this relates to quality.

    The nature, purpose and scope of the HEQC's work relate to a range of policy documents and of legislation that shapes and regulates the provision of higher education in South Africa,1 in particular, the requirements of the Higher Education Act as amended, and White Paper 3: A Programme for the Transformation of Higher Education. The HEQC further operates within the framework of the relevant policies and regulations of the Department of Education (DoE), including the National Plan for Higher Education (NPHE) and the Regulations governing the registration of private providers.

    As the ETQA with primary responsibility for the Higher Education and Training Band of the National Qualifications Framework (NQF),2 the HEQC also operates within the requirements of the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) Act and its Regulations.3 According to the Regulations, the functions of ETQAs are to:

    • accredit constituent institutions for specific standards or qualifications registered on the NQF
    • promote the quality of constituent institutions, and monitor their provision
    • evaluate assessment and the facilitation of moderation among constituent institutions, register constituent assessors for specified registered standards or qualifications in terms of the criteria established for this purpose, and take responsibility for the certification of constituent learners
    • cooperate with the relevant body or bodies appointed to moderate across ETQAs including, but not limited to, moderating the quality assurance on specific standards or qualifications for which one or more ETQAs are accredited
    • recommend new standards or qualifications, or modifications to existing standards or qualifications, to the National Standards Bodies (NSBs) for consideration
    • maintain a database acceptable to SAQA
    • submit reports to SAQA in accordance with its requirements
    • perform such other functions as may from time to time be assigned to it by SAQA.4
  2. Context and governance of the HEQC work

    The work of the HEQC, including its institutional audit activities, is conducted within the context of ongoing reform and restructuring in order to produce a transformed higher education system of high quality, which is able to address the complex knowledge and development needs of South African society. Institutional audits take account of the continuing uneven development that characterises the South African higher education sector, and audits are informed by a commitment to the principles that underpin the restructuring.

    In conducting institutional audits, the HEQC is mindful of the differences that exist between public and private providers and among private providers themselves. As a result the HEQC has developed a differentiated system of institutional audits specifically focused on large private providers. While the general principles set out in this manual apply to both public and private providers, the latter will discuss with the HEQC how to use the audit criteria appropriately for their audits.

    In terms of the governance of quality assurance, the CHE appoints the HEQC Board and delegates all decisions in relation to quality assurance to it. The Board of the HEQC determines policy and procedures for the quality assurance work of the HEQC and is ultimately responsible for approving audit and accreditation reports. The HEQC Board judgments are based on evaluation reports from peer and expert review panels. The Board makes its judgments independently of other national agencies but seeks to complement their work where issues of quality are concerned.

  3. HEQC structure

    In accordance with the mandate noted in 1.1, the HEQC discharges its responsibilities through three directorates: Institutional Audits, Accreditation and Coordination, Quality Promotion and Capacity Development. In 2006, the HEQC created a fourth directorate dedicated to national reviews, which focuses on the re-accreditation of existing programmes in specific discipline areas and qualification levels.

    The HEQC works in a close collaborative relationship with the Monitoring and Evaluation Directorate of the CHE, which produces institutional profiles of public higher education institutions for use by the HEQC. The role of the institutional profiles in the audit process is discussed in Part Three, Section 4.5.1(i).


  1. Higher Education Quality Committee, Founding Document, Pretoria 2001, pp. 3-8.
  2. South African Qualifications Authority Act, 1995 (Act No. 58 of 1995), Section 5 (1)(a)(ii) and Higher Education Amendment Bill, 2001, Section 7 (1) (a).
  3. Regulations under the South African Qualifications Authority Act, 1995 (Act No. 58 of 1995).
  4. South African Qualifications Authority, Criteria and Guidelines for ETQAs, p. 27.


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